Over the last decade Russia has managed to liquidate essentially any organized Ukrainian ethnic community in the Russian Federation, invade Ukraine, annex a portion of its territory by force and illegitimate referendum and forge a largely frozen conflict with only Russia disturbing the peace occasionally in two of Ukraine’s easternmost regions.
The methodology employed in all instances has been quite simple. Lies, extortion, political pressure and overt fire accompanied by the willingness of some observers to believe have enabled Russia to proceed as planned despite pervasive global condemnation which Russia ignores. Russian lies are predicated on a disingenuous debate and the inability of Russia’s opponents to convince everyone in an otherwise naive and self involved world functioning through a malaise of ineffective international law. Blatantly Russia stresses that even if it invaded, but it didn’t, Crimea, it was compelled to do so in order to safeguard the rights of the Russian population there. Despite the transparency of a technically highly sophisticated world and the imposition of international sanctions initiated by the United States, the subsequent President of the United States not only apparently believed the disinformation, but perpetuated it. Russia staged a referendum for annexation which was not only illegitimate under international, Ukrainian and Russian law but also was conducted with the barrel of a gun to the head of the voters. Once again some in the West accepted the results including the later President of the United States who spoke on more than one occasion that the people of Crimea wanted to join the Russian Federation.
Internally, in cleansing Russia of a Ukrainian ethnic presence which Russia conducted systematically and in earnest over the last decade, the Russians resorted to what many even in Russia have referred to as a “genetic fear” imposed upon their oppressed. Today besides the fact that there is no Ukrainian school in Russia, full curricula or even a Sunday school, no legal Ukrainian church, no Ukrainian library, no central or regional Ukrainian organization, even local communities that simply sing or dance in Ukrainian are being uprooted. This cultural genocide, and that is precisely what it is, is being conducted in a seemingly innocuous administrative manner, but the result is grave politically and culturally.
The process is a follows: a Ukrainian structure is brought up on administrative charges for failure to cross a t or dot an i. Remedial activity is discouraged through the imposition of genetic fear, a term used in Russia from Soviet times to denote fear passed on from one generation to another. The matter is turned over to the courts. The leadership of that structure is privately told further in no uncertain terms that if it responds, complies or appears in court they will lose their jobs or even worse, something may happen to them or their families. The prosecution proceeds on the basis of non-compliance. Proceedings are defaulted. For the general population and Russians in particular who may be positively disposed towards Ukrainians, the lies are perpetuated by pointing to the conflict in Ukraine as justification or even sow hatred towards Ukrainians, i.e. Russia has had to protect the Russian ethnic community in Ukraine because of Ukraine’s abuse of that community. According to leaders of the Ukrainian community in Russia some eighty percent of Russians in the RF believe Russian propaganda against Ukrainians.
There is yet another element to this Russian charade. According to the last census there were two million Ukrainians in Russia, those who declared themselves. The Ukrainian leadership in Russia insists that the number is five times greater. Even so, Putin himself has stated on more than one occasion that in addition to those two million, some one million Ukrainians have immigrated into Russia since the war began.
It would be difficult for Russia to try to explain to the Council of Europe or the United Nations the lack of any institution or structure for an ethnic community of three million, that is at the very least the third largest in Russia without some type of a prop. So in 2012 the Russian government organized a non governmental organization of Ukrainians in Russia with a similar name to the legitimate structure Russia liquidated in 2010. The new structure purported to represent the Ukrainian ethnic minority on Putin’s Presidential Council of Nationalities. The government chose its leadership including the president. The president later went on to assault the head librarian of the Ukrainian Library of Literature in Moscow. He could not be arrested by the local police because he was seated at Putin’s table at the time.
There is nothing unusual about that in Russian society or politics. Under President Putin the Russian government had organized several years back a non governmental human rights organization in Russia which has appeared in the United Nations on more than one occasion. As long as there are people who accept Russian disinformation and perpetuate it, Russia will pursue its long trusted methodology.
October 6, 2020 Askold S. Lozynskyj